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Listen Up! 1/9/02
Wednesday, Jan. 9
Isley Brothers, "3 + 3," Tneck Records. I came in more than halfway through
this album, and realized that aside from the magnificent hits ("That Lady"
and "Summer Breeze"), I had never actually heard it before. Which means I
was totally unprepared for their slightly funky and decidedly funny take on
"Sunshine (Go Away Today)," a pop song from 1972 so insipid that I don't
think I'd thought of it at all in 20 years. The Isleys loved to take pop
songs that I didn't like - "Summer Breeze" being the classic example - and
turn them into something special. "Sunshine" isn't exactly special, but it's
kinda cool to hear Ronnie Isley get all worked up about it.
Benny Goodman, "Ken Burns Jazz," Columbia Legacy. You could do far worse
than to just snap up all the Ken Burns Jazz CDs and call that "Jazz 101."
The fact is, you'll still have about 10,000 great records to buy after
these, but these are uniformly great introductions to many major artists in
the genre. Goodman was a huge star, and he was considerably less complex
musically than many of his contemporaries. But, he swung like a
motherfucker, and his bands were always hot, fun, and powerful.
Centro-Matic, "Distance and Clime," Idol Records. It's not amazing to me
that so many musicians lack basic rhythm skills, or that they prefer to play
sloppy rather than tight. It's not amazing to me that so many bands hire
singers with pitch problems and a lack of range or power in their voices.
What is amazing to me is that so many of these indie rock pieces of shit
over the last dozen years or so all sound exactly the fucking same! They all
sound like Dinosaur, Jr., that same whiny voice that wavers around a few
notes and pretends it's singing tunes, and that same pounding 4/4 beat that
never solidifies, and that same raunchy guitar tone that never quite fits in
the rhythmic pockets that are supposed to make rock'n'roll music so
Various Artists, "Number One Country Legendary Hits Volume 2," Razor & Tie
Records. All of these hit the top of the country charts between 1950 and
1970, so that means the odds are they're pretty damn good. Yup, they are.
Some are ingrained in our national consciousness - "White Lightning" by
George Jones, "Lovesick Blues" by Hank Williams, "I Fall to Pieces" by Patsy
Cline. Some are familiar because we've heard rock acts do the same songs -
"I'm Moving On" by Hank Snow, and "A Satisfied Mind" by Porter Wagoner. The
songs I don't know, especially trifles like "Shot Gun Boogie" by Tennessee
Ernie Ford or "Slow Poke" by Pee Wee King, are revelations. You don't think
country music had an interest in rhythm? Listen closely to the many variants
of the acoustic guitars and fiddles holding down the beats throughout these
The Beatles, "The Beatles," Capitol Records. This is the one they call "The
White Album," on account of the cover is white. I just got back from lunch,
and "Ob-La-Di-La-Da" was on the stereo. Have you ever been struck by exactly
how perfectly constructed a little gem this song is? For that matter, have
you ever been struck by just how masterful each and every song on this
double record is? (Alright, I'm not hearing "Revolution #9" today, and I
know some of these are very much throwaways.) You know, the Beatles really
were great, and every once in a while, I get dumbfounded when I realize I'd
been taking them for granted again.